The Inner Dimensions of Socialist Revolution

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The Inner Dimensions of Socialist Revolution

The social revolution has to precede the political revolution. Personal self-realization has to precede the social revolution.

Achieving social change in America through political change – legislatively – as for example with the Civil Rights legislation of 1964 to 1968, is too slow a process today for overturning American capitalism to American socialism in time to effectively respond to climate change and global environmental degradation, by shifting American civilian energy production from fossil and nuclear fuels to solar, wind and geothermal sources, and ocean-wave-and-tidal and river hydroelectric sources, accompanied by a wide spectrum of energy conservation strategies and materials recycling and reprocessing methods, instead of indiscriminate and polluting waste disposal.

In fact, the political path to social change may be completely plugged shut today, with the fanatical obstructionism by capital interests who collectively own America’s two major political parties, and whose various outmoded environmentally catastrophic schemes of wealth generation are fossilized in place within an overarching 19th century paradigm of CO2-producing industrialization and labor exploitation, directed by frantic casino-style banking and financial speculation.

So, the timely development of a popular, scientific and effective national response to counteract the global geophysical crisis we call “climate change” must occur outside the arcane political machinery of our money-corrupted representative democracy. Basically, “the people” would have to independently develop a sense of national solidarity, overcoming all regionalisms and bigotries, and independently get organized to shift the ways they live and the ways they earn their keep, from a reliance on “black” versus “green” energy, and from a reliance on adversarial-capitalist economics versus cooperative-socialist economics. Given such a social revolution, it would then be possible to mount a massive campaign to counter climate change.

But, is such a social revolution possible? Can a majority of the national population actually free itself from the many shackles, control methods and seductions of corporate capitalism, by willfully bonding into one massive mutually tolerant and mutually helping cooperative, independent of the existing government: into a self-directed revolutionary socialism? This would require an incredible unanimity of vision and an amazing degree of commitment and discipline among hundreds of millions of people, to independently coalesce into a self-sustaining socialized mass able to overcome the opposition of the intransigent corporate capitalist establishment.

Any clear-thinking person will see that the idea of a spontaneous eruption of popular revolutionary socialism that independently counteracts climate change is impossible, and by chained logic such a clear-thinking person will also realize that we humans will never counteract climate change but instead will be plowed under by it, like the terrain downhill from an advancing glacier, because we are so inattentively self-absorbed and fatally wedded to the preservation of our inequitable and dysfunctional capitalism.

So, is the most intelligent tack then to stop agonizing over climate change and give up wasting time and energy in doomed attempts to put off the geophysical inevitable? Should we all just become Trumps and luxuriate carefree in capitalist mud-wallows for as long as they are available? Why bother trying to change the unchangeable?, sacrificing the good times of today for a restrictive future that will never occur anyway? Why not just keep grabbing for the money and enjoy doing that like we always have?

My answer is: half a loaf is better than none. Even if climate change is an implacable civilization-ending geophysical tsunami, I think we all would have a relatively better collective life for the duration of our species if we could develop even a scattering of minor uncoordinated popular socialist initiatives – anti-capitalist and anti-militarist – that directly confront specific aspects of the multi-faceted colossus of climate change and its social disruptions. These initiatives would include the election into public office of ecological-socialist candidates, like today’s young, enthusiastic Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), even if in small numbers. Why? Because any political efforts by eco-socialist officeholders that reach the public as actionable realities will benefit some fraction of the population, since such efforts would either ameliorate, blunt or end specific sociopathologies of our pure id capitalism.

Why give in to despair, dejection and acquiescence to a capitalist climapocalypse? Why not actualize through our own individual living presences the attitudes and one-to-one human connections that inject intelligent compassion and fulfilling artistry into the society around us, and in that way we become focal points of the socialist revolution we can imagine? How do you think a politically successful socialist revolution could be formed in the first place, if not by the weaving together of masses of one-to-one personal relationships of such self-realized individuals into a vast societal network?

Ultimately, it is not about “being saved” by external agents, like “good politicians” and “good laws” and “good governments,” from victimization by looming climate change disasters; it is about transcending who we are as merely passive fearfully insular consumers, and realizing that we are each, literally, individual expressions of the cosmos, and then operating out of that realization with a self-directed living-out of our socialist visions. Such living is the best that we humans can do, both individually and as socialized clusters, regardless of whether we are eventually plowed under by climapocalypse, or completely overcome it.

As an individual biological organism, you incorporate the formation of the cosmos within you as the subatomic particles, which first erupted out of the Big Bang, that are within the atoms of your materiality. Those atoms are almost entirely empty space, their nuclei (which are clusters of protons and neutrons) occupy only between 10^-14 to 10^-12 of the volume of the atom; that is to say 1 part in a hundred trillion, to 1 part in a trillion of the otherwise empty volume of the atom. The extent of that atomic space is defined by the electrical fields that transmit the forces connecting the nucleus to the point particle electrons flickering (“orbiting”) about it. These atoms are in turn clustered in simple molecules, like water (H2O), oxygen (O2), nitrogen (N2) and glucose (C6H12O6), and in massive and complex molecules like DNA. But even so, our personal matter is made of pinpoints of atomic grit suspended in empty space and meshed together by forces communicated across electrical links called chemical bonds. When you press your palm on a tabletop and feel the firm resistance of that structure, you are actually experiencing a force of electrical repulsion between the electro-chemical integrity of the mostly empty space tabletop, and the electro-chemical integrity of the mostly empty space you! Imagine such an atomic-molecular “net of gems” – as the ancient Buddhists called “the interdependence of all things” – as a metaphor for the revolutionary socialist net-of-gems network we would like to weave ourselves into, and to have a transformative effect on our political economy.

The “chemical bonds” of our wished-for socialist revolution are the one-to-one personal connections we “atoms” of that network fling out like spider silk to weave our self-realized selves into that net of gems. What matters is the sympathy of vision, and the moral character and personal integrity of the people we seek connection with. What does not matter are superficial attributes like their ethnicity, their physical characteristics, their birth language, their “style,” their default and unthinking microscopically sectarian political alignments (please!, forget about these uselessly trivial distractions!).

A friend of mine is a Vietnam War veteran who survived over sixty-four artillery barrages while trapped on a hilltop during the First Battle of Khe Sanh. He crystalized the essential idea here this way: “There are some people you want in your foxhole, and some you don’t.” My goal is to be “foxhole worthy” for people like him, and I judge others by the same criterion. At that high metaphysical level of socialist vision, we are synchronized; at the mundane street level of routine personal interaction, we give each other spontaneous rides when our cars unexpectedly break down on the road and we call for help, and when either of our cars are in the shop and we need to make a doctor’s appointment. We also share lunch breaks and stories. If and when it comes to serious action – foxhole time – we know we can count on each other. There are other men and women I share a similar connection with, people who are aware of the realities of our times, and have a compassionate intelligence about the direction of their lives, which goes beyond the effort to physically and economically sustain themselves, to also inject some goodness and humane connection – socialism – into the public sphere they are immersed in. It is with such people that I am associated with – “socialized” – in voting for our “progressive candidates,” and advocating – each in our own way – for an anti-capitalist and anti-militarist social transformation; and it is with such people that I can imagine being next to during any sudden eruption of a volcanic socialist revolution.

The Trumpians and their ilk are empty people. They need all that money, glittery stuff and power, to encrust their lonely hollowness with, so as to give them the illusion of actually being somebody and having actually accomplished something with their profiteering, exploitation and hoarding. But, sadly, they are human failures: they either deny or have no realization of their fundamental reality as expressions of Nature, nor of their potential for experiencing true fulfillment as individuals consciously interconnected in a humane socialist net-of-gems.

Don’t get distracted from the fundamentals by trivial details. Everything you need to know about self-realization – the atomic cores of our socialist revolution – was set down in the Upanishads, 2800 years ago. Everything you need to know about self-directed living, whether for meshing amicably with society or slicing through it for just cause – the electro-chemical bonds of integrity, and the forces of material opposition for our socialist revolution – was set down in the Bhagavad Gita, 2300 years ago. Everything you need to know about politics at the street level of pure, hard materialism – the movement-wide actions of our desired socialist revolution in opposition to dictatorial and enslaving moneyed power – was set down by Thucydides 2400 years ago. Everything written since is at best a gloss on the fundamentals already given, encrusted with elaborations on details about the cultures and times those later writings came out of; or they are at worst a complete diversion into varieties of ignorance, whether presented as texts of religious revelation, or advances of political theory. Read the originals and see for yourself.

In summary: each human being is something Nature is doing; realize and celebrate this, and from such realization free your mind from passivating confinement by corporate capitalist infotainment, herding by fear, and want-inducing indoctrination; from that personal mental liberation, direct yourself toward perfecting your character and achieving your full human potential (an endless endeavor); from such self-focused mental independence and moral drive, exercise the bravery of tolerance by seeking to make connections with other people of similar vision and moral drive; and then from your network of such personal connections try to weave yourself into a grander socialist net-of-gems that may in time capture and transform the nation, and perhaps even someday the world.

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Transcending Climate Change

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Transcending Climate Change

CLIMATE CHANGE / ENERGY TRANSFORMATION is a great challenge for us all. Approached with gusto, solidarity and creativity, it could be an exhilarating rebirth of everything and everyone we know – we can create Paradise if we choose to. If, instead, we shrink from this challenge, in denial, fear, timidly, submissiveness, without any spirit or confidence, then, yes, this formidable Earth-changing realty could drift into a long, enveloping, tedious, glacially-paced catastrophe for us, leading – who knows when – to our unglamorous individually unnoticed and lonely demise.

You have to realize that whether or when we “go extinct” is really beyond our control at any time; that rests in the hands of the greater geophysical, cosmic and chaotic power of Nature (which on Earth is certainly being prodded annoyingly by our puny yet persistent and mindless thermodynamic wastefulness). But, how we live as a species, and how we collectively express our awareness – and appreciation – of being alive, of being conscious, of being a human society: that is something we have complete control over for however long our species is graced with life.

So, really, the challenge is far beyond just finding exclusive escape routes from our deteriorating here-and-now to some minimally bearable new climatic future, for classes of today’s people who are favored by luck and wealth, and are anxious to gain comfortable personal salvations without having to undergo personal change. The actual challenge is to achieve our full human potential – individually and as a species – to transcend who we are today so as to make the rest of our indeterminate collective existence worthy of our finest enduring aspirations.

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The Changing American Population, 1610-2010

The population of English colonists on the eastern shores of what would eventually become the United States of America numbered 350 in 1610. Their descendants, along with those of the subsequent imported Black slaves, many immigrants (legal and illegal), and later remnants of the Native American population whose ancestors had populated this continent since as early as 14,000 years ago, reached a cumulative population of 308,745,538 individuals in 2010, within the political boundaries of the U.S.A.

This essay is a very general and simplified overview of how the population within the territory of the United States has grown over the 400 years between 1610 and 2010. While there is a very wide spectrum of “races” and ethnicities in the U.S.A., this essay will focus on only three groups: White people, Black people and Latino (a.k.a. Hispanic) people. Both White and Black people are thought of as two racial groups; while Hispanic people have Spanish as their original language, and their cultures are based on it, and they can be of any race: White, Black, Red, Yellow, and any mix of these. The summation of the White, Black and Hispanic populations in the U.S. makes up nearly the total US population. Asian and Pacific Islander people make up only 4.9% of the US population (in 2010); and American Indian, Eskimo and Aleut people make up only 0.9% of the US population (in 2010).

An aside on “races”: Based on genetics there is only one race of humans, but the concept of human races — popularly treated as species! — based on skin color, facial and physiological features, is still too widespread and embedded in popular culture to be dispensed with here. Also, race is tabulated in U.S. Census data, upon which this essay is based.

What I am interested to learn is if I can understand the politics of a period from the demographics of that time.

I have made a few simple charts of the racial and ethnic population fractions in the United States for Whites, Blacks and Latinos, based on historical census data spanning the years 1610 to 2010 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_racial_and_ethnic_demographics_of_the_United_States).

The first pair of charts (quantitatively identical, just with different data-set color schemes, for ease of viewing) show fractional populations as percents of the total US population, from 1610 to 2010. The top curve is for White people, the longer lower curve is for Black people, and the shorter lower curve, which begins at 1850, is for Latino (Hispanic) people.

This census data is not perfect. The United States Census has enumerated Whites and Blacks since 1790. Asians and Native Americans have been enumerated since 1860, though all Native Americans were not enumerated until 1890. A category enumerated since 1950 is “some other race,” and a category enumerated since 2000 is “two or more races.” Hispanics have been enumerated since 1940, with the exceptions of 1950 and 1960, but some estimates for the Hispanic population were made for certain years before 1940 as well as for 1950 and 1960.

The recorded percentages over time of the US population made up of Asian and Pacific Islander people are: 0 for 1610-1850; under 1% for 1860-1970; 1.5% for 1980; 2.9% for 1990; 3.8% for 2000; 4.9% for 2010.

The number of Native Americans in 1492 within the territory of the present day United States probably numbered 5 million people. By 1900 this population had dwindled to 237,196 (its minimum). It grew subsequently, reaching 1,420,400 in 1980, and 2,932,248 in 2010.

The growth of the total US population — as recorded by the imperfect census data — is shown in this next pair of charts.

The first chart of this second pair of graphics is best for visualizing the grow of population above 5 million people, after 1800. The recorded population grew from 350 in 1610 to about 5 million in 1800. The second chart of this pair of graphics is a logarithmic (linear-log) representation of the data, and makes it possible to see the quantitative trend, especially prior to 1800.

Returning to the fractional population charts, notice the following features:

1610-1770

The fractional population of Whites dropped from 100% in 1610, to under 80% in 1770; with a corresponding rise in the fractional population of Blacks from 0% (a relatively small number in actuality) in 1610, to over 20% in 1770. In the Colonial America of 1770, 1 out of very 5 people was Black (remember, Native Americans were not counted). This (20%) is the maximum that the fractional population of Blacks ever achieved in American history (but of course, the absolute Black population has grown throughout US history). This growth in Black population was a result of the importation of enslaved Blacks from Africa. The total Colonial American population during this period grew from 350 to 2,148,076.

1770-1850

The fractional population of Whites rose from its local minimum of less than 80% in 1770, to almost 85% in 1850. The fractional Black population dropped from its local maximum of over 20% in 1770, to about 16% in 1850. A law banning the importation of slaves into the United States took effect in 1808, but slavery itself was not outlawed. Blacks were born into slavery if their parents were enslaved, and the absolute population of Blacks in the U.S. grew. This period of 1770 to 1850 corresponds to the Industrial Revolution, which was the transition to new manufacturing processes in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, the increasing use of steam power, the development of machine tools and the rise of the factory system. Immigrants from Europe added to the White population in the U.S., for example Irish people seeking escape from their Great Famine of 1845 to 1852. The total American population during this period grew from 2,148,076 to 23,191,876.

1850-1900

The recorded (estimated) percentage of the US population made up of Hispanic people was under 0.8% between 1850 and 1900. In 1845, the United States annexed the “Republic of Texas” (Mexican territory occupied by “illegal immigrant” American slave owners seeking to expand the slave plantation system of the Southern U.S., westward). Mexico’s defeat in the subsequent Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, resulted in the loss of one-third of its territory to the U.S. That new US territory is the present day American states of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California.

The fractional population of Whites rose from nearly 85% in 1850, to about 87% in 1900; while the fractional population of Blacks dropped from about 16% in 1850, to about 13% in 1900. This half-century period encompassed the Civil War, the Indian Wars in the American West, and the Spanish-American War, when the United States became an overseas empire. The total American population during this period grew from 23,191,876 to 75,994,575.

1900-1930

Between 1900 and 1930, the fractional White population rose from 87% to 90%, while the fractional Black population dropped from 13% to under 10%. This thirty year span included the latter Gilded Age, World War I, the Roaring Twenties, and the Crash of 1929, which was the beginning of the Great Depression. The total American population during this period grew from 75,994,575 to 122,775,046.

1930-1940

The years 1930 to 1940 spanned most of the Great Depression (which actually occurred from 1929 to 1942), and are a local maximum of fractional White population (~90%), and a local minimum of fractional Black population (~9%). The fractional Hispanic population during 1930 to 1940 rose from about 1.3% to 1.5%. The total American population during this period grew from 122,775,046 to 131,669,275.

1930-1950

Between 1930 and 1950, the fractional White population remained at close to 90%, while the fractional Black population remained at close to 10%. This twenty year period included the Great Depression, World War II, and the brief Cold War period just after World War II and just prior to the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. The fractional population of Hispanics rose from about 1.3% to 2.1% during 1930 to 1950. The total American population during this period grew from 122,775,046 to 150,697,361.

1950-1970

Between 1950 and 1970, the fractional White population dropped from its highest proportion since 1700 (about 90%) to nearly 88%. The fractional Black population rose from 10% to 11%; and the fractional Hispanic population grew at an accelerating pace — more than doubling — from 2.1% to over 4.4%. The rapid increase in US Latino population was a result of their higher fertility, and increased immigration from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

The people on the island of Puerto Rico, captured during the Spanish-American War of 1898, were given US citizenship in 1917, but not the right to vote in US national elections, nor were Puerto Rico’s elected representatives allowed to vote in the U.S. Congress (to this day). But, that extension of US citizenship for Puerto Rico came just in the nick of time for the Wilson Administration to draft men from Puerto Rico to fight (and presumably some die) in World War I, and similarly in the subsequent wars of the United States. Puerto Ricans who want to vote in US elections have to migrate to the US mainland and settle there, which many did during the 1940s and 1950s, primarily to seek better economic opportunities. The musical “West Side Story” is an artistic artifact inspired by this wave of immigration from Puerto Rico to the US mainland.

The twenty year span of 1950 to 1970 included: most of the postwar boom (occurring primarily from 1948 to 1971), which encompassed the last two years of the Truman Administration, and the Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, and the first two years of the Nixon Administration, as well as the Vietnam War up through the time of the American invasion of Cambodia, ordered by the Nixon-Kissinger Administration. The total American population grew from 150,697,361 in 1950, to 203,210,158 in 1970.

1970-2010

The total American population grew from 203,210,158 in 1970, to 308,745,538 in 2010.

During the 40 years between 1970 and 2010, the fractional White population dropped significantly from 88% to 72%. The fractional Black population rose modestly from 11% to 12.6%; and the fractional Hispanic population zoomed from 4.4% to 16.3%. In the year 2000, the fractional Black and fractional Hispanic populations were essentially equal (12.3% and 12.5%, respectively), and subsequently the fractional Hispanic population became larger, and continued growing faster.

The rapid rise of the fractional Hispanic population subsequent to 1950, and especially since 1970, is responsible for the accelerating drop in the fractional White population (since the fractional Black population has changed little, and other fractional populations, as for Asians, are still relatively small).

The increase of the Hispanic population beyond that of the Black population after 2000, along with the corresponding drop in the fractional White population, has fueled the racial tensions expressed today as the Trump Administration: widespread Black resentment of Latinos (“Mexicans”), and the overt exercise of political power by White Supremacy: anti-immigrant and deportation policies against “illegal” Mexicans and people from Muslim-dominant countries, as well as voter suppression efforts aimed at Blacks and poorer Hispanics (many ethnically Mexican and Central American).

Trumpism is the combination of fear of demographic dilution — held by previously dominant racial-ethnic sub-populations; and of insatiably desperate exclusionary avarice seeking climax before our Pompeii-like climapocalyptic termination — held by the traditional, dominant and uppermost classes of American wealth.

Most of the undocumented (“illegal”) Central American immigrants to the United States were and are actually refugees from countries whose economies have been withered by US corporate vampirism backed by both direct and indirect US military interventions propping up corrupt and viciously cruel oligarchic client regimes. This predatory US imperialism “south of the border” stretches back to the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, and includes many US Marine invasions and occupations prior to World War II, as famously condemned by General Smedley Butler (who was awarded several Medals of Honor for his heroism during such actions, in his earlier years when he commanded troops in them).

During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt instituted the “Good Neighbor Policy,” which amounted to the U.S. being nice to Latin America and buying its export products at good prices for the producers (for example buying the entire Cuban sugar output during the war years), so as to induce the countries of the Caribbean and Central and South America to remain neutral in that war, instead of cashing in by provisioning Germany, and allowing its submarines to harbor safely in Latin American ports, and thus be able to hunt for Allied (i.e., American) war supply ships close to US shores.

After World War II, the Good Neighbor Policy disappeared and it was back to the Monroe Doctrine modus operandi. And, Central American peasants fleeing economic starvation and political murder would go north (to this day). A particularly bad period in this regard was during the Nicaraguan Revolution (1962-1990), and during the Reagan Administration (1981-1988), which massively, overtly and surreptitiously prosecuted its proxy Contra War in Nicaragua, in support of the remnant army and police forces of the Somoza dictatorship, which had been deposed by Nicaraguan socialists during 1978-1979.

The Reagan Administration also carried on similar proxy wars in Guatemala and El Salvador. The neofascist forces the Reagan Administration backed and supplied were responsible for many excessively cruel and massively bloody deeds, which many people — including me — considered genocidal. After 1990, the Central American wars tapered off, but the fundamental struggle — of a peasantry seeking political freedom, economic control of their lives, social justice, and physical security from arbitrary exploitation, torture and murder by the death squads and militarized police forces employed by corrupt oligarchic client regimes — still continues in some Central American countries.

And so, streams of impoverished displaced living victims of American profiteering in Central America go north, hoping to find their personal salvations in the United States. Those that make it (legally or illegally) add to the Latino Population Tsunami that is altering the demographic layering of the US population.

How will our changing demographics change our future politics? Good question.

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Collage image “Xenophobia,” by Thomas Calderon, sent on 30 September 2018

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ADDENDUM, 2 October 2018

TRUMPISM is the combination of fear of demographic dilution — held by previously dominant racial-ethnic sub-populations; and of insatiably desperate exclusionary avarice seeking climax before our Pompeii-like climapocalyptic termination — held by the traditional, dominant and uppermost classes of American wealth. Between 1970-2010 (census years) White population dropped 15.3% (from 87.7% to 72.4%, of which 8.7% was Hispanic), Black population rose 1.5% (from 11.1% to 12.6%) and Hispanic population nearly QUADRUPLED (from 4.4% to 16.3%).

The trends shown above are what fuel U.S. white supremacy, both in sentiment and in political action. The growth of the US Hispanic population is driven overwhelmingly by a higher fertility rate, not immigration. White people, worldwide, are the richest “racial” population, and they have the lowest fertility rate (more money, less kids). “Darker” and poorer populations have higher fertility rates. Trumpism (which includes anti-abortionism for white people too), the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and the former apartheid by and for white South Africa were/are wars against demographic dilution, perpetrated by the wealthy white low ‘fertiles’ (WWLFs) against poor dark high ‘fertiles’, (PDHFs). These “heart of whiteness” wars against demographic dilution are also wars for exclusionary capital hoarding (“race capitalism”). Also, these wars are the echoes of the white slave owner fears of the 17th through 19th centuries (over slave revolts), and the European imperialism of the 18th through 20th centuries (colonial wars). There is a lot of resistance among the world’s people to tolerate each other, and share the Earth (for doing so would tumble capitalism, authoritarianism, patriarchy and religion).

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The Imprisoned American Mind

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The following essay of mine originally appeared as:

The Imprisoned American Mind
2 August 2004
http://www.swans.com/library/art10/mgarci19.html

It is reprinted here without change. If you substitute “Donald Trump” for “George W. Bush,” “Hillary Clinton” for “John Kerry,” and “Bernie Sanders” for “Ralph Nader,” then you will easily find this essay “up to the minute.” Enjoy (or bemoan).

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The Imprisoned American Mind

“Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself.”

—C. G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self, 1957

 

“I suggest that the real objective of Socialism is not happiness. Happiness hitherto has been a by-product, and for all we know it may always remain so. The real objective of Socialism is human brotherhood. This is widely felt to be the case, though it is not usually said, or not said loudly enough. Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another. And they want that world as a first step. Where they go from there is not so certain, and the attempt to foresee it in detail merely confuses the issue.”

—George Orwell, “Can Socialists Be Happy?”, 24 December 1943

 

Can an awareness of political reality be re-awakened in the American public mind? How do we produce this Second American Revolution?

The Perfect Prison Of The Unused Mind

If some great power were to grasp the molten magnetic generator at the core of the Earth, and twist it so the field now pointed with magnetic north emanating from Ecuador and magnetic south from Sumatra, then all the compasses on the planet would point differently, and all our systems of navigation would have to change.

The psychological relationship of each individual to the whole of society is similar to that of each compass to the planetary magnetic field. Our personal compass helps us align ourselves with the norms of society, with “good” and “evil,” and with our own conscience. When our psychic compass is broken, we are psychotic — our contact with reality is very seriously impaired.

Imagine a group of psychotics, one possibility being the inmates at an insane asylum. This would be an accumulation of individuals with broken psychic compasses confined in a protected environment that is managed by people with excellent psychic compasses, who are intent to help. Such a scene would speak well of a larger enlightened society.

But there is another possibility. The society could be deviant, its psychic “field” twisted and misdirected so its norms are skewed from what is easily understood — outside of this society — to be decent and humane. In such an aberrant society, the governing psychic field can easily orient the compasses of individuals who do not have their own independent source — or frame — of reference. Such individuals, placid in their continuity within the social norms of their group, are members of a mass psychosis.

The American prison guards in the Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad were normal people fully adapted to their mass psychosis. Adolph Eichmann, a senior executive in the Nazi SS bureaucracy managing the industrial-scale death camp industry, was an individual proven by psychological testing to be normal and sane, and he too was a fully adapted member of a mass psychosis.

An individual inoculates himself from being infected by mass psychoses by developing a capacity for critical thought, an understanding of human nature and the reality of his own personality, by consciously working to improve and maintain his character, and by developing connections to sources of insight and compassionate awareness (religion can be one such example). This requires continuing mental effort over one’s lifetime.

Minds that remain largely unused because of ignorance, which is the child of laziness, will be found by mass media (“propaganda,” in the old days), filled with easily swallowed psychic worms that are coated with syrupy sweet sex, glistening cherry-red violence, desire-fulfillment fantasy, voyeurism, and lowest-common-denominator semi-pornographic mass culture. Once embedded, the underlying psychic messages re-program the thought patterns of the consuming individual for ease of remote control by the social programming elite.

If you don’t think, someone will do it for you, but not for your benefit.

The psychology of mass psychosis is how small groups of wealthy elites control larger populations. It may seem easy to look back on Hitler and the Nazi’s control of the German people and say “not me, not today.” But any truthful look at American politics would have to conclude that amazing progress has been made in the techniques of social control. Just look at how Americans so overwhelmingly volunteer to impoverish themselves, their society, their children’s future, even the very planet they live on — perhaps irreparably, all for the unique purpose of increasing the moneyed wealth of the moneyed class.

Control of a mass psychosis is the ultimate pyramid scheme. Political dictators seek to become cult deities, and economic elites seek to become admired nobilities by the combined labor and sacrifice of the enthralled proletariat, as well as by their delusional worship. A political revolution to free the serfs, the servants and the workers will have to overcome or bypass not only the physical and economic power of the state, but also the psychological power of a crypto-religious mythos that has been backfilled into the intellectual and spiritual void of an unthinking populace. And the people will resist the toppling of their idols, they will resist their own liberation, they will resist doing the mental work necessary to stay free.

Imagine the reaction to telling people “patriotism is psychotic.”

Zombie Nation

We are already brainwashed, and it is permanent. We are all conditioned, much as Aldous Huxley describes in his novel Brave New World. By high school, we are largely indoctrinated and imprinted with our attitudes and allegiances, and it is the rare individual who can overcome their silly embarrassment and their mental laziness to actually and overtly change their mind. Thought is effort, and this is contrary to being happy (remember “pursuit of happiness”?) because in minds trained for consumption, effort is work and work is unhappiness, and because achieving knowledge usually makes you angry at the follies and chicanery being committed under the cover of public ignorance — a socialist’s fundamental problem; read George Orwell’s essay “Can Socialists Be Happy?”

Most people are really of quite simple mind. They imagine that how they think (which is to say, not thinking much at all) is somehow an essential core of who they are — their self definition, their personality. Thus, confronting some comfortable, church-going Republican with vigorous calls to turn away from their party during the upcoming election is tantamount to asking them — from their frame of reference — to self-negate, to not be, to act and think as they “can’t” and as their anti-selves would act. You are asking someone to wrench free from their mass psychosis.

In the spirit of psychotic bipartisanship, let me note that the previous example can be inverted, to that of a conservative Republican importuning a brainwashed godless communist to betray his allegiances. However, the relevant situation for Americans is of witless popular allegiance to the Republican-championed mass psychosis combining corporate capitalist penuriousness and intolerant religiosity.

People who support George W. Bush (for example) are not swayed by ANY logical argument or observable fact (such as the false justification for the Iraq War, and no end to terrorism as a result). They vote to maintain the primacy of their self-image — reflected by Bush and conservative Republicanism — in American political and FINANCIAL affairs, the latter being the actual totality of concern. A voter votes for the “me”-reflector to be in charge. No logical or moral argument can ever counteract that.

This accounts for the intransigence of the Naderites and other US leftists who feel pushed out of electoral politics. No me-reflector of theirs is even permitted to get on the same national stage. Despite all the angry self-righteousness of Democrats who imagine they own all leftist votes just because Bush and the Republicans own rightist votes, they still do not mount me-reflectors for the leftists they would exploit, and Nader is running to protest this injustice.

On voting for “me,” see the work of George Lakoff, a linguist who describes how political debate is “framed” to limit the possibilities of discussion, and to resonate with the self image of a target audience the framers wish to co-opt. “Framing,” as Lakoff describes it is the control language of mass psychosis.

In many ways, the rivalry between Republicans and Democrats is a battle to control the mass psychosis of American socio-political placidity. The insurgency of Ralph Nader and the Green Party is an attack on the psychosis itself. The fond hope of the insurgents is that the inevitable bite of reality (weak economy, outsourcing, healthcare insecurity, withdrawal of social services, the price of imperialism and war) prods political movement to the left within the body of the mass psychosis, so it transfers control to Kerry and the Democrats, and then continues to build leftward momentum as conservative delusions fall before a widening awareness of political reality. Then the real revolution has a chance to break through popular conservative narcolepsy and challenge the hold of corporate imperialism over American politics. Of such stuff are dreams made of.

I think only external physical factors can influence Americans to do the mental and moral work needed to change their fundamental political perspectives — to drop the psychoses. I’m thinking of undeniable forces of change, like abrupt climate change leading to catastrophic social collapse, or thermonuclear war — possibly a civil war (a Yugoslavia style disintegration with nuclear strikes), or sudden and permanent loss of petroleum, or some combination of all three.

Since it took the Red Army to convince Germany to abandon Nazism (NATO forces helped in Western Europe); and close to total destruction in Japan — including the incineration of many of its inhabited cities by aerial bombardment — to convince the Japanese to abandon their military imperialism, I do not think it exaggerated to suggest that Americans might need an equally calamitous Armageddon to cause a reorientation of their politics.

Reorientation without the Armageddon? A beautiful wish, but not a logical one.

On The Articles

Ritt Goldstein describes the current American psychosis in terms of Erich Fromm’s concept of “socially patterned defects”, and R. D. Laing’s concept of “social-fantasy systems.” C. G. Jung, a co-founder of modern Western psychology, used the term “mass psychosis” to describe what second generation pychologists Fromm and Laing were describing in their own more elaborate terms. Like Jung, both Fromm and Laing witnessed the horrible mass psychoses of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, and their theoretical work tried to make sense of these experiences. Goldstein describes how the insights of Fromm and Laing are being used to understand the psychology (or psychosis) of political thought within the Bush administration today. Insights of this sort can be used either to promote the work of 21st century equivalents of Josef Goebbels, or to undermine the effectiveness of such propaganda — depending on who is paying attention and who is not. Goldstein reminds us of Fromm’s warning for the United States in 1941,

There is no greater mistake and no graver danger than not to see that in our own society we are faced with the same phenomenon that is fertile soil for the rise of fascism anywhere.

Thomas Frank describes how the Democratic Party dropped the language of class warfare, and essentially abandoned unionism and the working class during the last thirty years, in an effort to win over corporate support and reflect the culture of affluent suburban professionals. In doing so, it opened the way for corporate-funded propagandists to craft a mass psychosis for social control of the working class. The success of this Republican-led effort is evident in states like Kansas, where self-inflicted impoverishment has left outcrops of affluence amidst a flatland of working class bitterness. The malevolent genius of the mass psychosis is evident in Frank’s probing conclusion,

Why shouldn’t our culture just get worse and worse, if making it worse will only cause the people who worsen it to grow wealthier and wealthier?

Kevin Phillips was the architect of Richard Nixon’s 1968 winning “southern strategy,” and as such has a keen eye for the fissures and fault lines within conservative politics. Like Frank and Lakoff, he too sees opportunities for leftward movement of the electorate by re igniting the class war (which, of course, conservative corporatists engage in continuously under the cover of the mass psychosis) and reframing it in Lakoffian language. In particular, he recommends Democrats engage in “Deconstructing the Republican coalition,” as this “is a better long-term bet, and could be done.” Though disenchanted with George W. Bush’s brand of Republicanism, Phillips is not yet a Naderite, and he notes the immediate danger of his own recommendation were Kerry to lose control of the electorate during this delicate transition, “The result, however, might be to uncage serious progressive reform.” Note the word “uncage.”

The conservative working class of Frank is the Republican “unbase” of Phillips, which he describes as

the 20-25 percent of the party electorate that has been won at various points by three national anti-Bush primary and general election candidates with Republican origins: Ross Perot (1992), John McCain (2000) and, in a lesser vein, Patrick Buchanan (1992). Most of the shared Perot-McCain issues – campaign and election reform, opposition to the religious right, distaste for Washington lobbyists, opposition to upper-bracket tax biases and runaway deficits, criticism of corporations and CEOs – are salient today and more compatible with the mainstream moderate reformist Democratic viewpoint than with the lobbyist driven Bush Administration. Perot and Buchanan’s economic nationalism (anti-outsourcing, anti-NAFTA) and criticism of Iraq policy under the two Bushes is also shared by many Democrats.

George Lakoff is a professor of linguistics and cognitive science at the University of California, Berkeley; an expert in “framing,” a communications ploy that defines the terms of debate, or defines a “frame” confining the extent of ideas available to influence a discussion. Republicans are masters of framing. As described by Orwell in his book 1984, the fundamental purpose of controlling the use of language (keeping discussion within a frame) is to limit the scope of thought; this is essential to social control. When you respond to an argument by using the terms defined by the framers, you have already lost. Lakoff uses the example of “tax relief,” used by Republicans to insinuate that taxes are an inherent affliction. Lakoff suggests that Democrats (and any opponents of the Republicans) counter the “tax relief” excuse of relieving affliction, as a cover for enriching the wealthy, by discussing the “dues” we owe as a patriotic duty to support freedom, democracy, and the American way. In Lakoff’s words,

I would say taxes are what you pay to be an American, to live in this country with democracy, with opportunity, and especially with the enormous infrastructure paid for by previous taxpayers — infrastructure like schools and roads and the Internet, the stock market, the Securities and Exchange Commission, our court system, our scientific establishment, which is largely supported by federal money. Vast amounts of important, marvelous infrastructure: all of these things were paid for by taxpayers. They paid their dues. They paid their fair share to be Americans and maintain that infrastructure. And if you don’t pay your fair share, then you’re turning your back on your country.

Lakoff helped start the Rockridge Institute, whose mission is to “reframe the terms of political debate to make a progressive moral vision more persuasive and influential.”

Scripting The Revolution

Psychologists have described how the human mind can literally be confined in the virtual prison of a psychosis, and how repetition by authority figures, as well as control of frames of reference (social, moral, psychological, linguistic) can channel naive individual thought into dependable compliance within a mass psychosis. This situation affects the majority of Americans, and it is prudent to assume that you and I are among those so influenced. Because unreality is unreal, the attempt to maintain it in the face of reality builds up stress. Being psychotic is like running around with your eyes closed; sometimes you get headaches from running into telephone poles. Nine-Eleven was one such pole.

Thomas Frank is a witness to this social stress among the psychotic faithful, while Kevin Phillips speculates on the political potentialities of this disaffection, and George Lakoff describes how a new control language can be devised to tap this stress and channel it into unidirectional political momentum.

The natives are restless. Perhaps the incantations of old, sung in a new way, will move them.

Those who would be social revolutionaries, and dream of America as a Green Socialist Paradise, would do well to understand the imprisoned American mind, its popular culture and the techniques used to control it. These are the keys to revolution. Understand that freeing this mind is only the first step. Once freed, where it chooses to go is uncertain. Acceptance of this uncertainty is the sign that self-declared liberators are authentic.

And how is the revolution to be implemented? That is a topic for a future article.

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References, in Topical Groups

(all web-links active as of 24 July 2004)

Carl Gustav Jung, The Undiscovered Self, Boston: Atlantic-Little, Brown Books, 1957 & 1958, Library of Congress #58-7854

Ritt Goldstein, “U.S.: Patriotic Pride and Fear,” Asia Times, 08 July 2004

Manuel García, Jr., “American Gulag, And A Dogfight Of Psychoses,” Swans, 24 May 2004, http://www.swans.com/library/art10/mgarci14.html

American Will Confined by Conservatism

George Lakoff and the Rockridge Institute,
http://www.rockridgeinstitute.org/

“Inside the Frame” (on George Lakoff), 15 January 2004,
http://www.alternet.org/story/17574

Thomas Frank, “Red-State America Against Itself,” Tom Dispatch, 16 July 2004

Kevin Phillips, “How Kerry Can Win,” The Nation, 15 July 2004,

“Propaganda: Then and Now”
Gilles d’Aymery
12 November 2001
http://www.swans.com/library/art7/ga120.html

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Choosing Dignity During Climapocalypse

As industrialized civilization plows majestically forward towards its climapocalypse future created by the waste products trailed in the wake of its obsessive-compulsive fossil-fueled power-trip, guided by its delusional capitalist compass, an increasing number of establishment academics in the physical and social sciences are publicly announcing their utter despair about the likelihood for the continuation of the species homo sapiens beyond this century.

In an article earlier this year, Top Climate Scientist: Humans Will Go Extinct if We Don’t Fix Climate Change by 2023 (19 February 2018, https://gritpost.com/humans-extinct-climate-change/), Professor James Anderson opined that:

Climate change will wipe out all of humanity unless we stop using fossil fuels over the next five years. In a recent speech at the University of Chicago, James Anderson — a professor of atmospheric chemistry at Harvard University — warned that climate change is drastically pushing Earth back to the Eocene Epoch from 33 million BCE, when there was no ice on either pole. Anderson says current pollution levels have already catastrophically depleted atmospheric ozone levels, which absorb 98 percent of ultraviolet rays, to levels not seen in 12 million years. Anderson’s assessment of humanity’s timeline for action is likely accurate, given that his diagnosis and discovery of Antarctica’s ozone holes led to the Montreal Protocol of 1987. Anderson’s research was recognized by the United Nations in September of 1997. He subsequently received the United Nations Vienna Convention Award for Protection of the Ozone Layer in 2005, and has been recognized by numerous universities and academic bodies for his research.

In my previous article (https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/04/30/societal-death-or-transfiguration-cinema-visions-of-humanity-facing-extinction/) I quoted Mayer Hillman at length. Mayer Hillman is an 86-year-old social scientist, urban planner and senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute in England, whose fundamental conclusion is (see The Guardian on 26 April 2018, https://amp.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/26/were-doomed-mayer-hillman-on-the-climate-reality-no-one-else-will-dare-mention):

“We’re doomed. — The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps.

So, what can we do individually, cooperatively and independently of the capitalist juggernaut to improve the prospects for our collective life and death on Planet Earth?

Idealistically, the best we might be able to do is to make our national and world societies fairer, more cooperative and more compassionate, so as to make the end-times (which I think are more likely to occur over a 200 year period) as “good” as we can manage; instead of uncooperatively and cruelly suffering the worst possible combinations of wars, refugee mass migrations-invasions, pandemics and natural catastrophes (e.g., violent weather, hurricanes, earthquakes) as the norm of humanity’s experience for decades to come.

Realistically, I don’t see humans having the capacity to cooperate globally to relinquish fossil fuels because combustion-based energy is the basis of economic power (capitalism) and military-political power (e.g., the US-DOD military-industrial complex, China, Russia, etc.).

I think it clear (based on acts versus talk during recent modern history) that the actual consensus of world opinion favors maintaining the hierarchies so individuals of all types can continue to contend to maintain their “rank” and try to advance it. This obsession ‘must’ continue forever (until our extinction), so there will never come a time when EVERYBODY agrees to transform world society (and by necessity their own little societies and even their own personalities and selves). Logically, I see no likelihood of a homo sapiens-wide rapid voluntary personal evolution and societal paradigm shift to world eco-socialism.

So, the best that the “willing volunteer eco-socialist segment of humanity” might be able to accomplish is to make humanity’s coming climapocalypse “less bad,” by helping to expand kinder social behaviors and societal policies (in the ideal extreme: ‘ending’ corruption, ‘ending’ authoritarianism, and normalizing democratic socialism), to reduce the extreme disparity between opulent selfishness and unconscionable suffering by the impoverished that exists now, and which disparity would otherwise expand.

There is so much greenhouse gas already in the climate-change pipeline that we are locked into continuing and accelerating climate change: a runaway train with no brakes. There is about a 30 year lag-time between new greenhouse gas/pollutants emission and their having GLOBAL climate-altering effects; today’s level of climate change is largely the effect of emissions prior to the 1990s!

Can that “willing volunteer eco-socialist segment of humanity” be vastly and quickly expanded into an overwhelming majority?

I always hope more people question and wonder, AND use critical thinking to study, read and learn more about important topics like climate change. This has motivated every word I’ve ever written on the subject. It just happens to be my observation that most people don’t do this. They get “bored” with factual, logical explanations of the science and the reality of climate change (and the reality of most everything else).

Technically speaking, there is much that could (should) be done to ameliorate the advancing stresses of climate change, but social-psychologically speaking it is the “mental inertia” of the masses and their “leaders” that is by far the most “hopeless” — and controlling — element in the entire human-geophysical complex called “climate change.” There is no physical law of nature that prohibits humanity from adapting, “evolving” to a new paradigm for world society in much greater balance with nature, but it is a simple fact they they haven’t, aren’t, and don’t seem inclined to do so in the future.

This is like a Greek Tragedy: the plot is clearly perceptible from the start but everyone continues implacably forward without alteration of their mindsets, so the tragic ending is programmed as the fate to be experienced. We are Titanics aimed straight at our icebergs with our eyes wide open, steaming at full speed ahead. A game theory (decision theory, Bayesian statistics example) abstraction of the whole mental-inertia dynamic described here is given by “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” (look it up).

However, it is also true that chaos erupts unexpectedly in our marvelously complex space-time-consciousness universe, and it is always (remotely) possible that we could experience future surprises in our benefit, which are logically unimaginable now.

In any case, it would be better to be guided by rational thought than by delusional hope for a quick-fix salvation from the workings of Nature, and to recognize that the best tools we have now for crafting a decent life-on-Earth and death-with-dignity for our species during the overwhelming climate change we are geophysically compelled to experience, are in the social dimensions rather than in any of our over-rated technological gimmickry.

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Societal Death or Transfiguration?, Cinema Visions of Humanity Facing Extinction

How should world society respond to the approach of human extinction compelled by implacable external forces, such as: radioactive fallout after a global nuclear war (as in Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach), or an alien invasion by a species of technologically superior beings from outer space, or an impending collision between Earth and a massive planetoid, or (as seems most likely today) by runaway and irreversible Climate Change?

The general question has long been the seed for spinning out entertaining speculations in fantasy novels and science-fiction movies, but now it has become a serious matter of immediate concern for an increasing number of geo- and social- scientists and social planners. Mayer Hillman, an 86-year-old social scientist, urban planner and senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute in England, says (in an article published by The Guardian on 26 April 2018, https://amp.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/26/were-doomed-mayer-hillman-on-the-climate-reality-no-one-else-will-dare-mention):

“We’re doomed. — The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so. — I’m not going to write anymore [about the projected consequences of runaway Climate Change] because there’s nothing more that can be said. — With doom ahead, making a case for cycling as the primary mode of transport [instead of automobiles] is almost irrelevant. — We’ve got to stop burning fossil fuels. So many aspects of life depend on fossil fuels, except for music and love and education and happiness. These things, which hardly use fossil fuels, are what we must focus on. [Hillman is amazed that our thinking rarely stretches beyond 2100 when discussing scientific predictions on the increase of average global temperature.] This is what I find so extraordinary when scientists warn that the temperature could rise to 5C or 8C. What?, and stop there? What legacies are we leaving for future generations? In the early 21st century, we did as good as nothing in response to Climate Change. Our children and grandchildren are going to be extraordinarily critical. — Even if the world went zero-carbon today that would not save us because we’ve gone past the point of no return. [Action by individuals to limit their ‘carbon footprint’ – their direct and indirect production of greenhouse gases is] as good as futile. [National action by the UK along the same lines is also irrelevant] because Britain’s contribution is minute. Even if the government were to go to zero-carbon it would make almost no difference. — [The world as a whole would have to go zero-carbon, but can that be done without the collapse of civilization?] I don’t think so. Can you see everyone in a democracy volunteering to give up flying? Can you see the majority of the population becoming vegan? Can you see the majority agreeing to restrict the size of their families? — Wealthy people will be better able to adapt but the world’s population will head to regions of the planet such as northern Europe which will be temporarily spared the extreme effects of climate change. How are these regions going to respond? We see it now. Migrants will be prevented from arriving. We will let them drown. — [Few scientific, political; and religious leaders have been honest with the public on all this, in order to protect their own positions] I don’t think they can [be forthright] because society isn’t organised to enable them to do so. Political parties’ focus is on jobs and GDP, depending on the burning of fossil fuels. — [Can the now obvious signs of advancing Climate Change spark an epiphany in humanity’s collective mind, and cause it to relinquish its ultimately self-destructive fossil fueled binge?] It depends on what we are prepared to do. Standing in the way is capitalism. Can you imagine the global airline industry being dismantled when hundreds of new runways are being built right now all over the world? It’s almost as if we’re deliberately attempting to defy nature. We’re doing the reverse of what we should be doing, with everybody’s silent acquiescence, and nobody’s batting an eyelid.”

Now, let us consider the 2017 American movie Downsizing, given this context.

Downsizing is an intelligent and, by American standards, subtle cinematic science-fiction social satire about the individual’s problem of securing sufficient wealth to comfortably sustain their lives in a secure cosmopolitan community for the duration of their lifespan. This movie was conceived by Alexander Payne and his writing partner Jim Taylor, and directed by Payne who has numerous successful movies to his credit: Election (1999), About Schmidt (2002), Sideways (2004), The Descendants (2011) and Nebraska (2013). Downsizing was not well-received by the majority of the viewing public because it is a film about ideas, thus requiring thinking for its enjoyment, as opposed to being a cinematic delivery vehicle for emotive sensations and jolting stimuli to provide passive unthinking viewers with 135 minutes of thrilling distraction.

The central pit in Downsizing, around which the screenplay and the screenwriters’ implied social commentaries have been grown like the flesh of a stone-fruit, is that science has discovered a process for harmlessly shrinking living cells and organisms, enabling humans to be reduced to Lilliputian size so that their existing savings and equity in the “big world” can economically sustain them in lifetimes of luxury in the “small world,” because their “ecological footprints” – both for consumption and waste production – have been miniaturized. The attraction for “getting small” is basically a get-rich-quick scheme leading to an endlessly sustainable high-life coupled with the pleasurable sense of eliminating one’s big-world guilt over contributing to Climate Change and the environmental degradation of the planet, which is caused by its “overpopulation” with “big” capitalist-minded, wasteful and exploitative people. In brief: having it all.

The problem with making an expensive ($68M) artful cinematic work whose purpose is to stimulate thoughtful societal awareness – if you want to recoup your investment – is that you have to market it successfully to the masses of cinema-viewing yahoos. Downsizing was released on 22 December 2017, and as of 1 February 2018 (its theatrical closing) had only grossed $55M. It just didn’t hit the yahoo g-spot, and they hated it for boring them.

The “lesson” in the screenplay of Downsizing, which was delivered in a clear sedately-paced and understated way (which I like), is that the solution for achieving fulfilling individual lives in peaceful and comforting societies is for the people of such would-be societies to take care of one another: popular humanitarian socialism. Regardless of whether a society enjoys being situated in a natural or artificial paradise and is economically secure, or whether it is environmentally and economically stressed and doomed to extinction, the best that it can ever be for all of its inhabitants during its duration is entirely the result of its peoples’ commitment to construct mutually fulfilling lives of cooperation and compassion, instead of seeking to escape – from the masses of the less fortunate – into exclusive refuges and redoubts of enclosed privilege to continue with lives of egotistical self-centeredness and selfish indifference.

This message is ancient. It was part of the Buddha’s “Triple Jewel” teaching to his disciples and fellow monks and nuns (the Sangha), to ‘take care of one another’:

I will go to the Buddha for refuge.
I will go to the Dharma [the teachings of Buddha; the Buddhist way of life] for refuge.
I will go to the Sangha [harmonious community] for refuge.

The Buddhist sense of ‘taking refuge’ expressed here is not a running away from the rest of the world, but a commitment for living a truer life within it, based on Buddhist precepts.

There have been many book and movie stories centered on the idea of: individual fulfillment found through mutual help for securing group survival if possible, versus seeking individual escape from group peril, and from guilt over abandoning responsibility. Three such stories that came to my mind while pondering the movie Downsizing were the films: Lost Horizon (1937), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and Zardoz (1974).

Lost Horizon is Frank Capra’s film of the James Hilton fantasy novel about Shangri-La: a fabulous and peaceful Buddhist-style refuge from modern society and its torments, situated in a life-extending green valley that is hidden within the otherwise frigid and snowy expanse of the high Himalayas. But, can Shangri-La truly be an escape?

The Day the Earth Stood Still is Robert Wise’s movie of Edmund H. North’s screenplay of Harry Bates’s story of an alien ambassador, Klaatu, and his all-powerful robot, Gort (with a heat-ray beam-weapon dematerializer), who arrive in a Flying Saucer to deliver a message to humanity from an alien Federation of Planets: live peacefully on Earth and join our Federation as an independent planet, but do not militarize space with your rockets and nuclear bombs, because we would take that as a mortal threat and then our space-patrolling robot police, like Gort, would “reduce your Earth to a burned-out cinder.” Humanity’s escape to the good life, which is offered in this movie fantasy, would be achieved by forsaking war-making in all its forms to instead gain the advanced knowledge and technology of Klaatu’s interplanetary civilization, and that technology would vastly enhance the quality-of-life of the popular humanistic socialism that humanity would have to adopt as its new social paradigm.

Zardoz is John Boorman’s film about a far future post-apocalyptic immiscibly stratified static society that is suddenly ruptured by violence against its tiny elite, which results in a complete blending of humanity and a rebirth of human evolution. The Eternals are non-aging humans who live in a paradisal community, the Vortex, bubbled from the external misery by invisible force fields, and containing advanced endlessly-fueled hidden technology that automatically maintains the Eternals’ unending and idyllic existences. All the fruits of humanity’s previous achievements are now maintained in the Vortex, but the Eternals are all bored with their immortal lives of effortless omniscience and leisure. The vast expanse of the Outlands beyond the Vortex is a wasteland inhabited by the Brutals, people reduced to being isolated dumb animals without any civilization or social cohesion, scrounging through the wreckage of the previous world for each individual’s survival. Among the Brutals is a horse-riding semi-organized militia of enforcers, the Exterminators, who receive guns from Zardoz, a god in the form of a huge flying stone head that orders the Exterminators to enslave defenseless Brutals into chain-gangs to perform rudimentary agricultural labor, or other such work as mining, as might be required to supply the Vortex with what its denizens desire. The Exterminators punish any infraction and every failure by a Brutal – however trivial – with instant death by gunfire. The Exterminators, all men, also exult in their power and preference by their god, Zardoz, by freely raping and pillaging among the Brutals. Zardoz tells them: “The gun is good.” It is the hobby and amusement of Arthur Frayn, one of the Eternals, to carry on the charade of being Zardoz (piloting the stone head, and supplying the Exterminators with commands and cascades of firearms). It happens that through an instance of Arthur Frayn’s carelessness one of the Exterminators, Zed, manages to get into the Vortex and once there evolves despite an oppressive captivity, from Brutal ignorance to Eternal knowledge, and this leads to the complete and violent death of Vortex society, and transfiguration of humanity. The movie Zardoz is a dark – black – analog to the much gentler if still subtly sharp Downsizing.

The essential lesson of responding to the approach of a destructive inevitability beyond your society’s power is to engage in compassionate cooperation to make your society as good as it can be for as long as you and it can be made to last, and to find your life’s fulfillment in doing so.

This idea is captured visually so simply in the last moments of Downsizing that it remains invisible to the majority of the viewing public. And so our fractious collectivity cruises onward, untrammeled, towards its willfully unexpected collision with fate.

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Societal Death or Transfiguration?, Cinema Visions of Humanity Facing Extinction
30 April 2017
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/04/30/societal-death-or-transfiguration-cinema-visions-of-humanity-facing-extinction/

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Of related interest:

The Righteous And The Heathens of Climate And Capitalism
12 March 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci43.html

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Trump’s Swamp

Donald Trump is a bigot, liar, thief, coward and crybaby. The first three are standard for USA Republicans today (the political descendants of Ronald Reagan, the neocons of the Bush II Administration, the populist white supremacy idiots of the “Tea Party,” and also Trump’s fan-base of fearful failures hiding behind their threat displays as Neo-Nazis and closeted Ku Klux Klan wizards).

On his own, Trump is pathetic. The only reason he seems capable of advancing his menacing intent is because he manages to get many willing enablers from the technical, legal, financial and political professions, who see him as a convenient avenue, or public distraction, allowing them to advance their personal ambitions for swindling the public.

Few in this pack of jackals have any respect for Trump, they see him as an idiot, but a useful one. For them, he is at best a child who has stumbled into power, and they must thread a knife-edge path between pushing back against Trump’s chaotic tantrums, and meekly serving his whims with humiliating obsequiousness, in order to preserve the viability of their own intrigues.

Trump is a coward because he needs his pack of jackals to compensate for his fear and incompetence – he cannot do anything for himself, nor face challenges alone – and he is a crybaby because he needs his jackal nannies to maintain his infantilism as a geriatric spoiled child who wants endless indiscriminate loving approval.

While Trump, and his enablers, are certainly useless for the public good, the deeper societal tragedy is that so many Americans, high and low, are so eager to jump into the whirlpool of corruption whose public persona – at the moment – is Donald Trump. It is the willing ignorance and failures of moral character that so many Americans disrespect themselves by carrying on, which provides the hot air to inflate the pestilent bubble of the Trump Administration. Trump is not an anomaly, he is representative of a large and chronic abscess in the American national character.

The most important step to cleaning out that abscess and deflating the power of this pathetic persecutor is to stop thinking of yourself as a helpless victim, and/or to stop acting as a knuckle-headed bigot and simpleton enabler, by having the grit to expand your mind with critical thinking and to develop a robust moral character. Such self-development will lead you to possess the inestimable treasure of a true and enduring self-respect. It is the solidarity between people such as these that can expand into a real social revolution, and the eventual sloughing off of parasites like those crawling around in Trump’s swamp.

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